Luxury Family Holidays Handpicked for Parents

Monthly Archives: March 2015

Gabriel O'Rorke. When your baby is aboard and you live abroad

What with Kate and Keira sporting baby bumps, 2015 seems to be the year to have a little one. But what about being pregnant on foreign shores? Travel writer, contributor, and ex-pat Gabriel O’Rorke discovers what it’s like having a baby aboard abroad…

The final stretch

Since I last wrote, this little bump has mainly been cruising to Cape Horn, queue jumping (as mentioned in part 1 of this blog) and having a massive growing spurt. I am now unmistakenly pregnant, but still determined not to succumb to the pregnancy waddle.

“He could come any time from week 37, which is just 3 weeks away,” said Leyla, our midwife at our check-up this week. This was the first time we met the midwife as the process is very doctor-led in Chile. Each doctor has a midwife with whom he works, and she will be there for the majority of the labour, with the doctor arriving just before the birth.
We also did a tour of the maternity ward, seeing the birthing room and the “hotel room” where we will be moved to for three nights after the birth. All very nice, and all getting very real.
I also went to a prenatal talk at the hospital. Sitting in a room looking at a Powerpoint presentation on birth felt strangely like being back in a Spanish lecture at university; it’s easier to feel detached from the whole thing when you’re ooing over new vocabulary, but one line stuck in my mind and it has to do with perineal massage.
“You might like to ask your mother to help,” said the midwife. Umm, I don’t think I’ll be doing that, and somehow can’t imagine the same suggestion in NCT antenatal classes…
So, I’ve now done my last big trip before the birth. We went on a cruise through the fjords of Southern Chile and Argentina, starting in Punta Arenas, stopping at Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of Chile, and finishing in Ushuaia.
I didn’t think twice about a third trimester trip to the end of the world (although I did come armed with a very handy doctor’s note for the flights) and, much to the surprise of the crew aboard the Via Australis, I took on the toughest hikes. People who go on cruises aren’t generally known for their sporty prowess. Now, my itchy feet will have to wait a few months until our first family holiday.
And so I enter the final stretch, my prenatal yoga classes have restarted after a month-and-a-half summer break (only in South America) and now it’s pretty much just a waiting game. We have an invasion of friends and family coming our way, with eight visitors arriving over the next month, so I’ll be nice and busy. Everyone seems to want to get in before the baby comes; I suppose it’s the end of an era, but maybe my sister is the only honest one when she says “I don’t want to miss seeing you fat.”

As one would expect, Grazia’s travel editor Nicholas Kynaston has experienced some seriously fabulous places during his career as a travel journalist. He’s flown all over the world, but he’s never happier than when travelling with his Labradoodle baby, Barney and his partner Ben. And the results of his travels with his canine kiddie are the subject of his fantastic blog, He chats to about the beauty of the Cotswolds, his travel essentials for Barney and exactly what to ask when looking for a luxury, dog-friendly hotel.
Grazia's travel editor Nicholas Kynaston and Barney
Novarover is fabulous. How did the idea come about? 
Being a travel editor means I need to travel a lot – both at home and abroad. The downside of foreign trips is leaving my partner Ben, and after we got him nine years ago, Barney, our wonderful Labradoodle. When travelling in the UK, I obviously want to be with them both. It’s never a problem taking a partner on a review trip, but dog-friendliness is so random (as I think child-friendliness is, too); it really just depends on the individual attitude of the owner or manager. I’m very lucky that most hotels I review are at the higher end because of the publications I write for. Asking if a place is dog-friendly is a great way to edit down invitations – if they d0n’t allow dogs, another member of the team will go. If they do then Ben, Barney and I will visit.
After a while I thought that it would be quite useful to collect these reviews together as there wasn’t another blog around about luxury travel with your dog. I wanted the site to be a source of information for people who were planning a special weekend away and wanted to take their pet with them. I think nowadays we see pets as part of the family and people don’t want to check them into kennels when they go for a weekend away.
Grazia's travel editor Nicholas Kynaston and Barney
What is your earliest childhood memory of travel?
I can remember as a very young child going abroad with my parents and brother for the first time. We hired a villa in Spain but my Mum was scared of flying so my Dad drove us all the way down from the north west of England in a couple of days. We got lost in the Pyrenees and ended up in a remote Spanish village at two in the morning trying to find the way. Everyone tried to help us, in spite of us not speaking Spanish and them not speaking English. I can just remember thinking how friendly everyone was. Afterwards, when we got on to the motorway, I can remember my mum saying there must be a very big town called Salida because there were a lot of signs for it, but she couldn’t find it on the map – it was only later we realized it was the Spanish word for ‘Exit’!
What is the best holiday you’ve ever had with Barney?
We’ve had some amazing holidays with Barney, but I think my favourite was when we stayed in a property managed by the Vivat Trust. They save historic buildings that would otherwise go to rack and ruin and turn them into holiday lets. The particular place we stayed in was an old 18th century folly built in the style of a Greek temple in Shropshire (it’s called ‘the temple’ on their website). That would be amazing enough, but what was even more incredible was that it was, in effect, in its very own private river valley. Barney absolutely loved it and it felt as if we’d stumbled upon something totally unspoiled and special.
And the worst?
It has to be when we went to Brighton for the weekend. Nothing wrong with that, but the weather was awful – howling wind and rain. The British seaside is very depressing when it’s like that. Barney didn’t care though and he still wanted walking  – even in the driving rain, thunder and lightning – not pleasant!
Favourite hotel ever?
Favourite hotel has to be Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quatr’Saisons in the Cotswolds. We went before it was dog-friendly and again recently now that they have dog-friendly rooms. It is an incredible place and clearly a labour of love for Raymond Blanc, who owns it, and has a hand in every detail – from the variety of tomatoes used in the kitchen to the works of art on the walls. Then there is the food. They don’t get two Michelin stars for nothing. The dinner I had there is simply the best I’ve ever tasted. Add to that staff who are kind and attentive, plus the glorious Cotswolds location, which is one of my favourite parts of England, if not the world.
Favourite city in the world?
It has to be Buenos Aires in Argentina. Imagine a mixture of Paris and Milan, then add a bit of crumbling Havana, plus that unique Argentine character. They say an Argentine is an Italian who speaks Spanish and thinks he’s English, which all made sense once I was in the country! Walk around the La Boca district near the banks of the River Plate and you will see the most incredible tango shows happening on street corners that make the professionals from Strictly Come Dancing look like they have two left feet.
And your favourite rural retreat for a quiet weekend away?
As I said before, I love the Cotswolds, but if we have a little more time I like to get the ferry down to the Isle of Wight. There’s something about that little stretch of sea that makes travelling to the island seem as if you’ve travelled back in time just a little, to when the pace of life was gentler and people friendlier. It has great beaches too – the one at Ventnor is my favourite.
Favourite restaurant where you can take Barney?
We are very lucky that we have a lovely bistro just up the road from us in Clapham called Gastro. Being totally French-owned and operated there’s never been any question that Barney is allowed in the restaurant. France is generally is a lot more dog-friendly than the UK. We love the oysters and steak tartar there and Barney is often given a bone to take home with him!
How do you handle travel with Barney? Any top tips for other travellers with canine kids on how to keep life as simple as possible?
When we bought our car one of the considerations was whether it would be suitable for Barney. As it is a ‘cross-over’ type Qashqai he goes happily in the boot and we can keep an eye on him. When travelling, we break every three hours so he can stretch his legs. Being part Labrador, he’s very adept at dealing with new situations and takes most things in his stride. However, when we are in a new place we put him in a special harness which stops him pulling on the lead as this is something he does when he is excited. This saves his neck being strained and our shoulders from dislocating!
How do you handle tricky travellers nearby who get funny about dogs (as they often do with kids, too).
We’d never want to upset people who had a genuine fear of dogs. If they do, the easiest thing to do is reassure them that he is friendly and keep out of their way.
Any top tips for luxury travel with dogs?
Always ask initially if the place you want to go to is dog-friendly and which areas dogs are allowed in. Some places bill themselves as welcoming dogs but then you find out dogs are limited to very few parts of the hotel. Keep a couple of old towels in the car just in case that lovely walk in the woods becomes a mud bath. Don’t forget to take things your dog is familiar with like his bed and a couple of toys as these will comfort him in an unfamiliar environment.
Any products you absolutely can’t travel without?
Barney is a ball obsessive so we always take a ball thrower with us. This is a device that helps you throw the ball further (a tired dog is a happy dog) and means you don’t have to bend down to pick a slobbery ball up as the ball can be picked up with the thrower. I always have to have a roll of poo-bags in my pocket, too; I think picking up after your dog is an absolute must. I also carry a bottle full of water in case he is thirsty on those long walks and there is no water nearby.
What are your predicted travel trends for the coming 12 months. Any places or hotels in particular that you think will really sing?
I think the “stay cation” will continue to be popular as people are still cautious about spending vast amounts on holidays.
More and more people are using sites like HomeAway and Airbnb to rent private flats and houses, both in the UK and abroad, as they provide better value for money and people enjoy the feeling of experiencing what it’s like to be a local rather than being on the tourist trail.
I think we are going to start seeing a lot more of Eastern Europe coming into fashion, too. Albania has a very similar coastline to Greece and the Italian Adriatic, but at the moment is as undeveloped as Spain was in the 1950’s. Transylvania in Romania is known as the home of Dracula, but it has so much more – some of the best preserved Medieval towns and villages in Europe are here and the last genuine European wilderness – the Carpathian Mountains – where it is possible to spot bear, wolves and lynx.

The 1,190 coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka that make up The Maldives are a hotbed of seriously luxurious family-friendly hotels and some very rare underwater beauty. And, maybe surprisingly, they are not exclusively for honeymooners. In fact, they are one of the world’s best destinations for a family holiday. Warm shallow waters, gleaming white sandy beaches, year-round sunshine and a safe environment have made it increasingly popular with families, too. (Just don’t go in June as I did – it poured with rain every second I was there as it was, unbeknownst to me at the time, the rainy season. Not making THAT mistake again!)

The Residence Maldives beach

And, with so many islands to choose from there are, inevitably, some amazing properties. One can get spoilt for choice (a high end problem, I know) but, aside from the wonderful Maldivian properties we recommend at Kodomo here, we also highly recommend The Residence Maldives, now more than ever.

The Residence Maldives jetty


Located on the unspoilt southern island of Falhumaafushi in the Gaafu Alifu atoll, part of one of the largest and deepest atolls in The Maldives – Huvadhoo –  this exclusive resort’s 94 beach-front and over-water villas have been designed to complement the surroundings. As such, they offer a wonderful sense of place, using natural materials and local artefacts while, of course, maintaining a very high standard of luxury. The Spa by Clarins is the first of its kind in The Maldives and, of course, diving is a huge attraction for guests at The Residence. With a large number of exceptional dive sites within a short distance, as well as the PADI 5* Dive Centre on site, you’ll have a wide range of un-spoilt coral reefs and rich marine life to explore.

The Residence Maldives mini marine biologist programme


If you’ve a true water baby on your hands and want to introduce little ones to the wonderment of the sea, the new Mini Marine Biologist Programme recently launched at The Residence Maldives is ideal. Under the beady eye of expert, highly-qualified guides, children will learn to use a mask and snorkel in the shallows, spotting plenty of sea life right beneath their feet or, for the more confident swimmers, head out on an excursion to view the atolls vibrant tropical fish, reef formations and other marine life. Aside from the practical lesson, the biologist programme is educational too; after viewing the coral first-hand, children will be taught more about the fragility of this environment. And should they want more, you can all enjoy a dolphin cruise to see the large pods of dolphins just a short ride from the shores of The Residence Maldives. It is open to children aged 3 and up and offers what is, surely, a truly memorable vacation experience.

The Residence Maldives pool

It’s ever so easy in this day and age to book a fabulous holiday somewhere on an island, check in and hang by the pool for a few weeks and then return home, tanned and relaxed but having engaged little, if at all, in the community outside the doors of said resort. And when you’re somewhere culturally inviting, loaded with lovely locals and a society that is as interesting as it is relaxing (thanks to its climate and lovely accommodations), that is a real shame. So it’s fantastic to hear about the latest venture from Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in Saint Lucia.

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort idea cream bar


Why Saint Lucia?

Nuzzled just northwest of Barbados in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia is a gem of an island that ticks every holiday box. There’s gorgeous weather, pristine beaches, and stunning, luxury family hotels galore. Even better, the time difference is less than the east coast of the US. From London it’s just four hours behind, making it slightly more tolerable when flying with small children used to a strict time schedule.

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort beach

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, Saint Lucia

A particularly good choice if heading to this lovely Lesser Antilles island is Windjammer Landing. An all-inclusive, very luxurious villa-only family resort, this will delight families of all ages and sizes. Located on hills that tower across 60 acres above the sea and directly over the beach, the villas of this immaculate resort offer views right out across the ocean into the horizon. There are sensational three and four bedroom villas available which are ideal for those with children. You’ll enjoy your own private plunge pool or swimming pool and either a kitchen or a private chef (depending on which villa you choose), so you needn’t do much and you’re guaranteed space, comfort and privacy.

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort family on beach

The resort’s Jacquot Fun Club offers tonnes of well thought out activities for children aged 4 to 12, as well as a separate programme for teens. Everything from limbo and reggae dancing to beachside cricket, watersports to coconut bowling, Patois language lessons to lizard hunts, crab races to movie nights and karaoke are on offer, and there is a dedicated children’s buffet in the Dragonfly restaurant during peak holiday time.

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort pool and villa  view

And starting from this month, the resort’s younger guests will have the opportunity to experience contemporary ‘island life’ through a new partnership with a local school, allowing children to meet their Caribbean counterparts and see how school life compares in this part of the world. So not only do they get to windsail, swim and enjoy some family time on holiday, they get a fascinating look into life for children their age in other countries, and make new friends.

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort teenagers

Every Friday at 2pm during peak holiday season, the resort’s Jacquot Fun Club will organise visits to nearby The Grande Riviere Primary School just moments from the resort.  While there, they will have the opportunity to participate in school lessons with the local children and see how these differ to their own back at home.  They will also have a chance to let off steam alongside local pupils during break time, make new friends and learn how different, and sometimes similar, life is in Saint Lucia for their contemporaries. Young guests are encouraged to pack storybooks, stationery or toys to take with them to help replenish the school’s limited resources. And what’s really fantastic is the older students from the local school are invited to spend some time in the resort to understand the variety of careers available in hospitality and tourism.

To book this hotel click here.